Optionality (noun, finance): The value of additional optional investment opportunities available only after having made an initial investment. The short-term payoff for this is modest, but the optionality value is enormous.
I’ve gauged from the ‘official’ readership of this blog (those who have subscribed) and the comments, that half the readers are bereaved parents, and the other half are those who want to empathise. Some are going through it and some want to learn how to support those who are.
So here’s my advice: Don’t forget to invite the loss mums!
I can see how people would assume that bereaved parents would not want to attend baby showers or be in baby groups, but ASK them. (I heard one horrible story where one mum was unceremoniously kicked out of an antenatal whatsapp group when she lost a child! If you see that happen, please message her on the side. Check whether it was her choice, Jeez Louise, have a heart). Address the elephant in the room (mine’s named Summer!). You will do the bereaved parent a great kindness by acknowledging their loss and their child.
For me, a generic baby shower invite will land more indelicately than if you make the time to say:
“Hi, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss this year (insert child’s name, if the child has a name! Very important!) and so you might not fancy this, but please know that we would love to have you along, if you fancied it. If not, (insert annoying pregnant lady’s name) completely understands and will be thinking of you (and name of child)”.
Bruthfully, I will not be attending any baby showers this year (that’s my new personal kindness), but I would still like to know one’s going on. To find out after the event is pretty hurtful, even if we all know the reason was to spare my hurt! I will definitely attend Christenings though, love a Christening, please invite me! Everyone has different lines.
I say that I won’t attend a baby shower, but I might change my mind. And I would like that optionality. (James asked me recently why I say ‘optionality’ instead of ‘option’. Truth is I like the longer word better. Also it’s a work-word, which has greater meaning in this instance: in the short term these events may hurt, but having the acknowledgment, option and flexibility to attend is huge: better all round for the relationship in the longer term).
Last week, I saw my friend K (who’s the amazing friend who first planted the seed of encouragement for Mumoirs) and I said “Oi! I saw you guys were out last week, you could have invited me! I totally wouldn’t have come, because R’s pregnant, but still!” and she said, “fair point”. Today, K’s meeting R again and text me an invite. I initially said no, because I don’t want to see a baby bump. But then R text me, literally 10 minutes later, and to even my surprise: I had changed my mind!
I can’t avoid bumps and nice pregnant ladies forever. They both know I might cry this evening, but that’s ok. What’s a few tears amongst friends? It’s a safe space right, and that’s the point. Plus there will be cake. Tears and cake, not the worst combo.
Even if your friend keeps saying “no” to pregnant lady encounters, that’s ok isn’t it? That’s ok that she knows you’re still thinking of her? (If she does repeatedly say no though, you might want to follow up with a “let me know if it’s annoying that I keep inviting you to these types of things, so I can stop!”) Conversation is key! Invite, acknowledge her situation, repeat.
Final point of information: I have started saying “congratulations” to loss mums, usually something like “I’m sorry they couldn’t stay longer, but congratulations on having them. They were here, they mattered”. Every time I’ve written it, I’ve cringed and thought “eek, did I get that horribly wrong?’ so far every loss mum has responded positively. Often saying “Oh! No one ever congratulated me before, thank you! That’s so lovely”. I’ve seen these loss mums on Instagram go on to congratulate other women, and noticed how that’s also been gratefully received. I understand, because only one person ever congratulated me for having Summer (thank you F!), even though she has a birth certificate. I personally, will always be open to celebrating her. It doesn’t make me sad to remember: I never forgot.
If we are getting better at acknowledging sad events like miscarriages, we can also acknowledge the previous joy they brought. Because loss mums lose so much of the good stuff! So I’ll now walk around for a bit this lunchtime saying “I’m so proud of ME!” regarding Summer. This is something my nephew H said, when he was about 3 and had earned a certificate in rugby-tots. I think we could all take a leaf out of his book.
If you would like to subscribe to future emails from this website, please sign-up here: